I met Graham Carson at the 2013 Empire City Invitational (“Empire”) competition in New York City.  I am the event coordinator.  The Empire is an international high school mock trial competition.  Over the past seven years, it has brought together some of the world’s top mock trial programs hailing from six countries (Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom) and 31 U.S. states.  The event presents a unique challenge for international participants as they must learn U.S. law.  Mr. Carson coached the Green Point Christian School from Green Point, New South Wales.

 

Since the competition’s inception, I’ve had the privilege of meeting wonderful attorneys and coaches.  Indeed, I’ve encountered some of the world’s most brilliant legal minds.  All of these selfless, remarkable professionals are dedicated to public service, volunteering months of their time to help prepare high school students for the mock trials.  But not every attorney I meet is necessarily a good educator or coach.  Educating requires one to not only be knowledgeablebut to understand how to communicate that knowledge effectively.  Coaching a competitive academic team — like one that participates at the Empire — poses an additional obstacle for an educator.  Students fly from across the globe for this competition so there is tremendous pressure on them to perform.  Consequently, an educator at the Empire is charged with the additional task of delicately managing the (often times) fragile emotions and psyches of teenagers.  Striking the right balance between parent, educator and coach is incredibly difficult.  As a former mock trial coach,  I've struggled with it myself.

 

In the seven years that I’ve run the Empire — and over 250 coaches that I’ve encountered — I’ve never met someone quite like Mr. Carson.  The man is remarkable. 

 

Green Point Christian College reached out to Mr. Carson just a month before the Empire.  Intrigued by the idea of helping young people, Mr. Carson accepted the school’s invitation to assist the team.  In the span of one month, Mr. Carson taught himself the American legal system, learning the U.S. federal rules of evidence and the relevant body of statutes and case law.  American law students take three years to learn material that Mr. Carson grasped in thirty days!  He not only mastered the U.S. legal system but he effectively communicated this information to the students at Green Point.  By the time the competition started, his team was articulating objection responses as well as some of the top American teams. 

 

But it was Mr. Carson’s ability to handle the dynamic of a high school group that I found to be his most impressive feat.  He taught them how to conduct themselves with grace and professionalism.  At an event like this, there are often times where students let the heat of competition get the best of them.  Not Mr. Carson's team.  His students were courteous, friendly and respectful.  They were the recipients of the Spirit of New York Award for Outstanding Civility & Professionalism, the only honor at the competition bestowed upon students by their peers.  I personally developed a fantastic relationship with many.  And at their most difficult moment during the weekend, Mr. Carson shined.  His team had just competed against the Korean National Champion in a close trial in which Mr. Carson and the team felt that they objectively won.  The outcome, however, was not in their favor.  Faced with the task of getting his emotional students prepared for the trial while keeping them focused, Mr. Carson excelled.  He stayed calm, cool and collected.  He explained to them the inherent subjectivity of the activity, which is reflective of real life where judicial opinions may be influenced by a judges’ biases.  Mr. Carson was able to remarkably parlay a tough loss into a lesson for the students and use it as motivation for the next round.  The rest is history: Green Point won its final round in convincing fashion.  

 

Mr. Carson is a gentleman, a scholar and an outstanding educator.  It was an honor to meet him and I look forward to working with him in the future. 

 

Justin Matarrese

Founder & President

Empire Mock Trial Association, Inc.

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